Actor and stand-up comedian Orlando Jones is taking over the podcasting world to talk shit and unpack real issues. Known as one of the original cast members of the sketch comedy series “MADtv” and his role as co-producer for “The Sinbad Show,” Jones became an official Wilmingtonian after wrapping season two of Fox’s supernatural drama series “Sleepy Hollow” in 2015 (he also filmed “Waterproof” locally in 2000). The actor has since gone on to play Mr. Nancy, a.k.a. African god Anansi, on Starz’s “American Gods” and Oliver Tambo in TV mini-series “Madiba.”
While productions worldwide have been halted due to COVID-19, local producer and Orlando’s manager, Karon Tunis, reached out to the actor about alternative ways to put out fresh, new content during a pandemic. She thought Orlando would be a perfect fit for a new podcast, “Talkin’ Sh!t with Orlando Jones.”
“Having a national celebrity in a city like Wilmington doing a podcast, I think, is really good for commerce and for inspiring others to reach for their goals and dreams,” Tunis says.
She began working toward making it a reality. Her vision included Orlando having honest and open conversations with guests, sometimes leading to serious topics, other times enlightening and enlivening ones. “To create a higher interest I decided to incorporate well-known celebrities that could speak to the topics that were of interest in each episode,” tells Tunis, who has been in the entertainment industry for 40-plus years. Currently, she runs Anything But Weddings, which produces an animation series and has four more greenlit in collaboration with NBC Universal.
Tunis also knew actor, singer and public speaker Tiffany Jones, who hosts her podcast, “Let’s Talk About Errrrythang,” to discuss race, sex and religion. After the actress had reached out to Tunis last year to discuss doing voiceover work, Tunis decided to pair her with Orlando. “The best way for me to groom someone that wants to step into that arena is to put them with a professional that is hard-hitting and comedically has a fast pace,” Tunis says. “I thought it would be interesting to put a local with a national celebrity to show what could be done with hard work and dedication.”
Orlando and Tiffany create a space where they can have fun while hashing out current issues. While Tunis planned to launch “Talkin’ Sh!t with Orlando” at the end of May, it was delayed due to COVID. The first episode, “A Call to Accountability,” centers on the Black Lives Matter movement, George Floyd and soon-to-be-retired UNCW professor Mike Adams. “X-Files” actor David Duchovney is set to appear in the first episode; Orlando and Duchovney starred in 2001’s sci-fi comedy “Evolution.” A longtime fan, Tiffany admits to being a bit starstruck during the show but walked away more impressed by the actor’s openness.
“My perception of Mr. Duchovny from the interview revealed how he has a true desire to have an open dialogue and determine how to change our nation as a whole,” she says.
The interview consisted of heavy topics, such as police brutality and economic injustices present in the Black community. Other guests, such as rapper Snoop Dogg and Wilmington’s very own Support the Port director Cedric Harrison, plus rap artist and activist Talib Kweli and Wilmington community supporter Justice Jones will appear in the episode. In a clip from the unreleased pilot, Tiffany talks about how the fight for equity is far from over.
“Elders are seeing the things they stood up and fought for 60 years ago,” she says. “It’s still going on. . . . It is imperative our children and future generations see a different narrative than our ancestors before us so that we do not repeat the negative parts of history. There has been a great surge from the millennials and Generation Z to push forth this change and make a major impact regarding the future.”
Orlando, too, has become a champion for the cause, often using hashtags #BlackLivesMatter, #CancelMikeAdams and #ACallToAccountability in each of his Facebook posts on the podcast’s page to raise awareness. Though the UNCW-tenured professor Mike Adams will officially retire from the university as of August 1, 2020, he hasn’t officially spoken to any news outlets about the decision. However, Orlando is clear he would never consider talking to the professor on the podcast.
“I don’t want to give him a platform to dox, threaten and spew his hateful agenda,” Orlando tells. “That’s what it is: an agenda. I have to be mindful there are actual victims of Mike Adams—because of that, I have to be careful what I say. These young women have and are continuously being reminded of the pain [Adams] has caused.”
As a father of two young Black daughters, Orlando is a parent who holds leaders accountable. He says he would not allow them to attend a class taught by someone who is so openly discriminatory. “It is crucial for children to understand the system put in place is still treating Black women like they’re at the bottom,” Orlando explains. “If there’s someone in a position of power at the university who views [my children] as less because of the melanin in their skin, then they don’t need to be in the education system.”
As a Black woman from Georgia, Tiffany has faced her fair share of racial disparity as well. She admits fearing the day she has to sit down and explain to her adolescent daughter what to do if she is stopped by the police.
“The straw that broke the camel’s back is when George Floyd cried out for his deceased mother to rescue him,” she says. “At that moment as a mother, I heard my child screaming out to me. Or Breonna Taylor: Imagine getting a call stating that your daughter was killed accidentally due to a ‘No Knock Warrant’ mixup. Or Ahmaud Arbery, who was killed due to a conviction based on the color of his skin. Not only am I a Black woman, I am a Black mother with a Black daughter, I am a Black woman with Black parents and we are all experiencing the hurt and pain of our fallen Black men and women that have been wrongfully killed by the police.”
Orlando is happy to have an outlet that uses his privilege and celebrity to shed light on important issues. “I always feel like I have the best discussion when the guest can open up and talk about where they’ve failed along their journey and how they’ve overcome those challenges,” he explains. “Being able to have these accomplished guests on to talk shit and speak on things I’ve discussed with them behind closed doors makes for a great conversation.”
While the first episode was focused on the current civil rights protests locally and conversations it opens worldwide, Tunis says the second podcast will follow suit. “It goes hand-in-hand with [the first] one that is currently in production as well. . . . [but] the platform is not always so serious,” she adds. “There will be times when it is just purely fun.”
While there aren’t more confirmed guests in upcoming episodes, Tiffany has a wish list she is culminating: comedian Dave Chapelle, actors Will and Jada Smith, and even Wilmington’s very own police chief, Donny Williams. “Each of them are very intellectual, insightful and humorous,” she says. “I would love to discuss the entertainment industry, relationships and current events with them in the near future.”
An exact release date is yet to be determined. To stay up to date on the podcast, visit www.facebook.com/theRealOrlandoJones.
Additional reporting by encore editor Shea Carver.